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Meet Anna, Who's Been Making Gillette Razors for 49 Years

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 11:21 am EST

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We couldn’t wait to meet Anna Friendly in person to hear what she had to say about her 49 years as a Machine Operator making blades and razors at our South Boston Gillette Plant since 1965!

The South Boston Gillette Plant is where King Camp Gillette opened his blades and razors facility in 1901, and it remains—as the sign outside states—Gillette’s World Shaving Headquarters.

The red brick exterior of this facility may look quite traditional, but the innovation inside is unparalleled. Making blades and razors requires some of the highest technology you’ll find in manufacturing. But it wasn’t always that way.

“When I started, we put the razor together by hand on an assembly line,” Anna shared. “Little springs, gadgets. I put the tiniest little part on, it made the spring work.”

Spring? I mentioned that I didn’t recall ever using a razor that had a spring. “You did,” Anna said with a chuckle. “You just didn’t know it.”

I feel humbled in Anna’s presence. Originally from Alabama, she’s humble and meek, yet you can sense the wisdom that comes with experience. She measures her words, without the need for embellishment.

You can see her feeling slightly embarrassed at the attention, believing that she’s just doing her job. But there’s a difference between doing a job and demonstrating sustained excellence and dedication for five decades.

As to her starting wage in 1965? “I have absolutely no idea,” she says.

As to whether she ever planned to stay this long? “That’s the first question most people ask me,” she says. “When I first came here, I was like everyone else. I said I’d be here for a year. But one year became five. I had fun, it was a great job. Why leave?”

She recalls the time she encountered a confused man in the shaving aisle at a local pharmacy. “I was able to recommend a razor, a blade and I remember the excitement I felt, the pride. ‘I did this. I built this.’

It’s this pride in excellent manufacturing that has led Anna to remain a machine operator for 49 years. She prefers to be where the action is, in the middle of things, quietly producing on a consistent basis.

As for when she plans to retire? “That’s the second question most people ask me,” she says. “When I’m ready. I’ve worked a long time for this. I’ll miss the people most. It’s a family. That’s basically what this is: a family that makes blades and razors.”

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